An engine malfunction which emerged during high-speed trials of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier in the Barents Sea will delay the delivery of the warship to the Indian Navy by at least four months as extensive repairs will be needed once it returns to dock.
The aircraft carrier,which is currently undergoing extensive trials with a Russian and Indian crew on board,was to be handed over in December after a series of delays and cost escalations. However,sources said this deadline the original plan was to induct the ship in August 2008 will also not be met as defects emerged in the boilers of the warship during the high-speed trials last week.
While Russia has not officially informed India of a delay in the programme,sources here said the deadline is likely to be extended by at least three to four months as the ship will need to have the insulation in the boilers replaced.
It is learnt that while the carrier is sea-worthy and is currently steaming under its own power,the boilers overheated when the ship was being tested to its maximum speed of 30 knots. The maximum speed achieved was 28 knots after which the temperatures in the boilers reached unacceptable levels.
The initial investigation suggests that there are some issues in some boilers and that the insulation needs to be removed and refitted. While reports from Russia had suggested that seven out of the eight boilers developed defects and may need to be removed,Indian Navy sources said repairs could be effected to some of the boilers in situ when the ship comes to dock.
The sources also said that the warship,which has been at sea for over 90 days,will continue with other trials and will complete the mandated 120 days at sea before returning to port. Fighter aircraft trials on board the carrier are also continuing and almost 40 arrester wire landings have been achieved till date.
The trials will continue and the warship will come back to port only after finishing all planned trials. Repairs will be required once it returns but that should take only a reasonable amount of time, sources said,adding that Russian media reports about extensive damage to the ships engines are wildly exaggerated.
However,the unexpected delay in the project comes at a particularly embarrassing time for Russia as bilateral military talks are scheduled to take place next month where this issue will come up for discussion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will also arrive for bilateral talks in November.
The aircraft carrier has had a troubled past with things coming to a head in 2008 when Russia informed India that it will not be able to deliver the warship as per the 2004 contract due to miscalculations in the cost of refit. The price of the ship was then escalted to US$ 2.34 billion with Russia promising to deliver it by 2012.